Overseas Marriage Loophole

March 18, 2013

divorce-attorney-proxy-marriage.jpgIn the past few years internet dating and the concept of online love connections has exploded. It has become increasingly more socially acceptable to find a mate online than when the concept first arose with the invention of the internet. Recently a new trend has emerged: internet marriages.

The idea that a marriage can occur without the physical presence of one spouse is not so new and trendy. A proxy marriage is a legal ceremony which occurs when one (or both) spouses are not physically present. If both spouses are not present, the wedding is called a "double proxy wedding". Usually a "stand in" will be present in the absent spouse's place. Generally, proxy marriages are not legally recognized throughout the United States except in limited circumstances such as for military personnel. In Del Mar, the courts recognize proxy marriage as valid in certain circumstances. California is in the minority of states in this respect.

Read more about divorce procedure in Del Mar, CA

While proxy marriages were traditionally entered into mainly by active duty military, they are now being used between people who met online and may have never seen each other in person. Weddings are literally being conducted over the internet through services such as Skype and Google Hangout. The purpose of requiring both parties to be present and to conduct a ceremony in the presence of a witness is to ensure the voluntariness of the marriage. The main concerns of the states which do not allow proxy marriages include: facilitation of fraud by those attempting to gain U.S. citizenship and the possibility that they will be used by human traffickers to bring women into the U.S. Although individuals are generally interviewed when they apply for citizenship and questioned about the details of their wedding, the Times reports that officials working for Homeland Security and the State Department do not specifically ask if the wedding occurred by proxy.

Learn more about the divorce attorneys at the firm

Although many stats disallow proxy marriages, generally every state recognizes marriages legally conducted abroad. This means that if two parties legally marry in a foreign jurisdiction in accordance with that jurisdiction's laws, their marriage is generally recognized in any state. The recognition of marriages legally conducted abroad is being used as a loophole to circumvent the restrictions on proxy marriages. As divorce lawyers are aware, if a proxy marriage occurs pursuant to the marriage laws of a foreign country and that country recognizes the legality of proxy marriages, the proxy marriage will be legally recognized in any state.

Continue reading "Overseas Marriage Loophole" »

"Infidelity Clauses" and Celebrity Prenuptial Agreements

March 15, 2013

A premarital agreement, more commonly known as a "prenup," is a contract entered into by soon-to-be spouses prior to marriage. Celebrities commonly enter premarital agreements in order to protect any wealth they may acquire during marriage. Where one spouse has the potential to make millions of dollars per year, as is often the case in Del Mar, he or she is incentivized to enter into a contract with his or her spouse clarifying that any money earned during marriage will remain his or her separate property upon divorce. In contrast, under California's default community property laws, each spouse is entitled to one-half of all earnings by his or her spouse during marriage. One of the most highly debated issues in celebrity premarital agreement negotiations and litigation is an infidelity clause.

Learn more about quasi-community property

As divorce attorneys know, all premarital agreements are different, and thus all infidelity clauses are different. However, an infidelity clause generally imposes a financial penalty on one or both spouses if he or she commits emotional or sexual infidelity. Financial penalties may include mandatory cash payouts, increased spousal support, or an unequal division of the marital estate. In order to protect themselves in case of divorce, celebrities couples such as Charlie Sheen & Denise Richards, Sandra Bullock & Jesse James, and Catherine-Zeta Jones & Michael Douglas are rumored to have had infidelity clauses in their premarital agreements. Recently, Elin Nordegren was rumored to have demanded a substantial infidelity clause in a premarital agreement as a condition of reconciling with Tiger Woods.

Ironically, despite the buzz about celebrity infidelity clauses in premarital agreements, infidelity clauses are void in Del Mar and across California. In Diosdado v. Diosdado, the California divorce court found in 2002 that a penalty for infidelity is in direct violation of public policy underlying "no-fault" divorce and thus is unenforceable. Thus far, Diosdado has been continually upheld by all published cases to follow it. The policy behind California's "no-fault" divorce is that a party should not be punished financially for any misconduct during marriage. In contrast, certain circumstances allow some states' divorce courts to look at fault in dissolving marriage, determining support, and dividing property. It would seem to follow that these states would uphold an infidelity clause in a premarital agreement, should divorce become an issue.

Read more about jurisdiction and divorce in California

Considering that thousands of celebrities call cities in California home, it is interesting that so many celebrities are discussing unenforceable infidelity clauses. One explanation may be that only celebrities residing and divorcing outside of California are negotiating infidelity clauses. Gossip magazines also debate whether or not an expensive price tag actually deters celebrities from straying outside of their marriages.

Continue reading ""Infidelity Clauses" and Celebrity Prenuptial Agreements" »

Allen Iverson's Divorce Finalized

Iverson_Divorce_Final.jpgFormer Philadelphia 76er Allen Iverson's divorce has been finalized. The resolution came after the second divorce filing by Iverson's wife, the first having been filed 15 months prior and then withdrawn according to TMZ.

Standing a mere 6 feet (relatively speaking, of course) Iverson was the number one draft pick of the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers in 1996. He went on to be named NBA Rookie of the Year for the 1996-1997 basketball season. He continued his career with eleven NBA All-Star nods, and won the All-Star MVP award in 2001. Iverson is father to five children.

According to LA Times.com, in the divorce decree the judge awarded Iverson's wife legal and physical custody of the parties' five children. In doing so, the court did not have kind words to say about Iverson. According to the article, the court stated about Iverson: "he does not know how to manage the children; has little interest in learning to manage the children and has actually, at times, been a hindrance to their spiritual and emotional growth and development."

Iverson will have some visitation with his children, provided he complies with certain conditions imposed by the court. Notably, one condition is that he is not allowed to consume any alcohol for the next 18 months, nor consume alcohol within 24 hours of visiting with his children and, logically, during the visits. Reportedly, he is also required to obtain therapy and attend AA for the next year. According to the LA Times article, the divorce decree states that Iverson has "an obvious and serious alcohol problem, which has caused him to do inappropriate things in the presence of the children while impaired", things such as, the article reports, leaving the children unsupervised.

While Iverson's divorce is in Atlanta, Georgia, here in San Diego, divorcing parents are similarly faced with issues of alcohol abuse and its implications on custody and visitation issues in the San Diego Superior Court. To address such issues, the California Family Code includes specific provisions.

Prior to making an order for joint physical custody, which means that each of the parents will have significant periods of physical custody, the San Diego family court is required to consider the habitual use of drugs or alcohol by one or both of the parents. Specifically, Family Code §3011 provides: "In making a determination of the best interest of the child in a proceeding...the court shall, among any other factors it finds relevant, consider all of the following: (d) The habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances or habitual or continual abuse of alcohol by either parent..."

What happens in the case where one parent alleges habitual or continual use of alcohol by the other parent, but the parent facing those allegations denies them? Family Code section 3011 continues: "Before considering these allegations, the court may first require independent corroboration, including, but not limited to written reports from law enforcement agencies, courts, probation departments, social welfare agencies, medical facilities, rehabilitation facilities, or other public agencies or nonprofit organizations providing drug and alcohol abuse services..."

In some cases, there may be a document which can easily corroborate the allegations; in others, it may be a bit more difficult. If it can otherwise be shown by a preponderance of the evidence that there is habitual or continual abuse of alcohol by a parent, a judge may order that parent to undergo testing for the use of alcohol. If such testing is ordered, it must be done by the least intrusive means. Further, the parent against whom the allegations are made (and thus who is ordered to submit to the test) has a right to a hearing to challenge the results. A positive test cannot alone be the determinative factor in a custody and visitation ruling; the court is still required to balance all factors to determine the best interests of the children.

Continue reading "Allen Iverson's Divorce Finalized" »

UK Study looks at the effects of divorce on children

www.dailymail.co.uk recently published an article with the headline "Divorce after a child turns seven makes them more likely to perform badly at school." The article cites a study conducted by the Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre that was published by the Department for Education. The government-funded study found that children whose parents divorced after the child had turned seven are more likely to perform poorly and have behavioral problems. The article opined that the lesser impact on children under the age of seven is likely because divorce may have a lesser effect on younger children as they cannot fully understand the implications.


Divorce was one of the 40 factors looked at by the study for its effects on a child's scholastic achievement and behavior. Among the other factors looked at were number of siblings, number of hours spent in front of the television, the way in which rules are enforced in a household, grandparent involvement and general parenting skills, to name a few. The study projected that the effects on children at the age of seven are likely to continue into the child's teen years and adulthood. The study highlighted the importance of family separation, conflict and divorce on the development of children.

Of course, divorce is in some cases unavoidable. In those cases where divorce must occur, what can San Diego parents do to minimize the conflict and the effect on their children?

One tool parents can utilize is a well thought out parenting plan. When an issue of custody and visitation is brought before the court in San Diego, the parents are required to participate in custody mediation. They can do so either at Family Court Services, which is a free program run by the San Diego Superior Court, or they can opt for private mediation at their own expense. The stated purpose of this custody mediation is to reduce the conflict which may exist between the parties and to develop a custody and time-sharing agreement which is in the best interests of the children. It is not uncommon, however, that San Diego parents are unable to reach an agreement through mediation. In that case, the mediator issues a report and recommendation which is then considered by the court in making its ruling of the custody and/or visitation issue. Frequently, in these recommendations we as divorce attorneys see language included in the proposed parenting plan that is geared towards reducing conflict between the parents. Some such provisions which immediately come to mind are:

"Neither parent shall make negative statements about the other in the presence of or hearing of the children or question the children about the other parent."

"The parents shall communicate directly with each other in matters concerning the children and shall not use the children as a messenger between them."

"The children shall not be exposed to court papers or disputes between the parents, and each parent shall make every possible effort to ensure that other people comply with this order."

Such language may be included in a parenting plan at the recommendation of the mediator, but can also simply be included by agreement between the parties.

Another tool for parents is the resource Kids Turn. Kids' Turn is a San Diego non-profit organization dedicated to working with the entire family to achieve an amicable and healthy divorce.

Read more about Kids' Turn or visit their website.

The study published by the Department of Education did qualify its results by stating that "Some children do relatively well despite unpromising circumstances and some do relatively poor despite having a good start." It's nonetheless helpful for San Diego parents to be aware of how a divorce might impact their children and to take steps that may be appropriate to mitigate any negative impact there may be.

Continue reading "UK Study looks at the effects of divorce on children" »

How Divorce May Change Your Retirement Plans

March 12, 2013

Divorce_after_fifty.jpgDivorce can have a devastating effect on both parties' standard of living and finances.
We have previously blogged about the sacrifices divorcing spouses make when they cannot afford to support two separate households at the same standard of living they enjoyed during marriage.
However, in Del Mar, the "gray divorce trend" is resulting in another sacrifice divorcing couples make - retirement.

Read more about division of retirement in divorce

From 1990 to 2010, the number of divorces involving spouses over 50 years old "gray divorcés" doubled. Experts say that one of the causes for the increase in later-in-life divorces is longer life spans. Just like a divorce between spouses in their 20's and 30's will affect the current standard of living for both parties, a divorce past 50 will affect retirement lifestyles. If a couple divorces when the spouses are between 20 and 40 years old, there is plenty of time before retirement for both spouses to re-build any divided retirement funds. However, gray divorcés will experience the following financial roadblocks:

First, the accumulated retirement savings between the parties is usually divided in half upon divorce. When parties divorce, all property acquired during marriage is divided equally. Most, if not all, of a couple's retirement fund is usually acquired during marriage. Thus, each spouse will only end up with one-half of what they planned on retiring on with his or her spouse.

Second, funding two separate retirements can cost between 30% and 50% more than funding one. Post divorce, the parties will take separate vacations, take twice as many trips to visit their children and grandchildren, use two separate cars instead of one, live in two separate houses, etc. In addition, if one former spouse becomes ill, the other will not be there to care for him or her. Therefore, post divorce, a spouse may have to use significant retirement funds to pay for medical care.

Read some frequently asked questions about divorce in Del Mar

Financial planners have a few suggestions to help gray divorcés get through divorce and retirement past 50. They suggest hiring a financial adviser simultaneously with hiring a divorce lawyer. Additionally, they advise against supporting adult children when it is not feasible. Often around the age of 50, a gray divorcé will have a child who is getting married and expecting them to shell out $30,000 for a wedding. These types of purchases are not advisable. Finally, financial advisers suggest reducing spending by living in a smaller home, traveling less and eating out less.

Continue reading "How Divorce May Change Your Retirement Plans" »

Celebrity Divorce - Brendan Fraser Fights to Lower his Support Obligations

March 11, 2013

Celebrity_Divorce.jpgBrendan Fraser and Afton Smith married in 1998 and divorced nine years later in 2007. At the time of their divorce, Fraser was ordered to pay Smith approximately $900,000 per year for spousal support and child support for their three children. Now, Fraser claims that he can no longer make the required payments, which, if made on a monthly basis, total $75,000 per month. Fraser has filed a motion in family court seeking a post-judgment modification of child and spousal support.

In San Diego, after a divorce is finalized, family courts generally have the ability to change support orders if facts and circumstances have materially changed since the first orders were made. If the moving party can prove to the court a "material change of circumstances" he or she may be granted a post-judgment modification of support. One of the most common changes of circumstance relied upon by courts is a change in income for one or both parties. If the spouse ordered to pay support has experienced a significant decrease in earnings, the court may lower his or her support obligation.

However, it is important to note that San Diego family courts only have the ability to modify the support order back to the date a motion was filed. If one spouse gets fired and does not file a motion to modify support for a few months, he or she may owe a significant amount of back child and/or spousal support. Regardless of a spouse's current income, his or her obligation to pay support will not change until a motion is filed with the court. Even in cases where a judge determines that a material change of circumstances exists and that support should be modified going forward, he or she is not required by law to make the order retroactive to the date the motion was filed.

Learn commonly used divorce law terms

Fraser alleges that he has had an increasingly difficult time finding acting jobs since the third film in the "Mummy" franchise wrapped in 2008. However, according to IMDB, Fraser has worked on 17 projects since then. Smith claims that Fraser is lying to the court about his true income and hiding his assets. Smith has good reason to be suspicious of his earnings claims. At the time of their divorce, Fraser claimed that he would make $0 from future acting work. In fact he went on to star in movies grossing up to $2 billion worldwide. When confronted with this information, Fraser claimed deals like this were not "set in stone" at the time of his divorce. It is crucial for a spouse to present an accurate depiction of his or her income to the court in a family law case. If Fraser is in fact misleading the court and his ex-wife, he may face harsh penalties and sanctions.

Please contact us if you are contemplating legal separation, thinking of learning about divorce, or have questions regarding division of assets in divorce. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorce, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights.

Can the Court Force Me to Sell My House in Del Mar?

March 7, 2013

Division_Del_Mar_Divorce.jpgFor many Del Mar families, real estate is their most valuable asset. Because the prices of the average family home are so high, many families must invest significant funds into real estate just to live in the area.
However, upon divorce, all community property must be divided equally by the court.
If the parties have no other assets as valuable as the family home, it must be sold and the proceeds divided.

Read more about Divorce jurisdiction in Del Mar

Pre-Judgment: Prior to the final resolution of a divorce case, the court will generally avoid ordering the sale of community or separate assets. However, under Family Code §2108, at any time during the divorce proceeding, the court has the authority to order the liquidation of a community asset if necessary to avoid unreasonable market or investment risks. Divorce lawyers know that, in making this determination, the court will consider the nature, scope and extent of the community estate. California courts have held that judges may not order the sale of a community asset unless necessary to prevent the loss of that or another community asset. In some cases, the financial strain of divorce may cause the family residence to be lost to foreclosure. If equity remains in the home, it may be prudent to petition the court to order the sale of the residence so that it is not lost to foreclosure.

At the onset of a divorce proceeding, automatic temporary restraining orders take effect. These restraining orders are commonly referred to as "ATROS". The ATROS prevent the parties from altering the status quo of the marriage during the dissolution proceeding. For Del Mar divorce attorneys, this means that if one party maintains health insurance for the family, he or she cannot cancel that insurance plan because a divorce has been initiated. The ATROS also restrain parties from selling assets before they are divided by the court. Thus, a party may not unilaterally sell a home during divorce without a court order as discussed above.

At Trial: At the end of the case, the court is not as restricted in its ability to order the sale of the home. If the parties only significant asset is the family home and an award of that asset cannot be offset by another, the only way to divide the community estate is to sell the home. Therefore, during a Del Mar divorce, it is well within the court's authority to order the sale of a residence and to divide the proceeds equally between the parties.

Please contact us if you are thinking of meeting with a divorce lawyer. Whether you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation, consulting with a knowledgeable attorney is of paramount importance. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Divorce - Kristen Stewart's Affair with Rupert Sanders Destroys his Marriage

March 6, 2013

In July 2012, Us Weekly released photos of Twilight star, Kristen Stewart, and Snow White and the Huntsman director, Rupert Sanders', cheating scandal. Stewart and Sanders were photographed kissing in a parked car on the side of a secluded road. At the time, Stewart was involved in a serious relationship with teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson, and Sanders was married to British model Liberty Ross. Although Stewart and Pattinson reconciled in September, Ross has recently filed for divorce from her husband of nine years.


Ross and Sanders reportedly gave their marriage another shot after news of the cheating scandal broke and even attended marriage counseling. However, Ross was unable to move past her husband's public infidelity. The former couple has two children, Skyla, age 7, and Tennyson, age 5. In her Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Ross requested joint custody of the children in addition to spousal support and attorney fees. Sanders filed a Response to the Petition also requesting joint custody but not spousal support. Sanders wants each party to bear the cost of his or her own attorney fees.

Learn more about the divorce process in Del Mar

Ross retained celebrity divorce attorney, Laura Wasser, to represent her in her divorce. Wasser is most famous for her representation of celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Ryan Reynolds, Kim Kardashian, and Britney Spears. According to Los Angeles Times, Wasser's services will cost Ross $750 per hour. With rates that high, it's no surprise that she is asking the court to order Sanders to cover Wasser's fees. As Del Mar divorce attorneys are well aware, California courts have the authority to order one spouse to contribute toward the attorney fees and costs incurred by the other spouse. However, since California is a "no-fault" state, Sanders' infidelity will be irrelevant to all of the court's rulings.

Family Code §3557 was enacted to ensure that both spouses have access to legal representation to preserve their rights. This code section applies to limited circumstances including actions in which a supported spouse requests enforcement of an existing order for spousal support. In determining whether an award of attorney fees and costs is appropriate under Family Code §3557, the court must consider the following two factors:

(1) whether there is a disparity in access to funds to retain counsel, and;

(2) whether one party is able to pay for legal representation for both parties.

Thus, if one party has significantly more resources than the other and is able to pay for both parties' legal representation, a court may order him or her to do so in limited cases. Because Ross is not seeking enforcement of an existing support order, she will likely not be award attorney fees under Family Code §3557.

Read on about Del Mar divorce procedure here.

A request for attorney fees may be made during the pendency of a divorce pursuant to Family Code §2030. Family Code §2030 has similar requirements as §3557; however, allows for a request to be made for purposes other than to enforce existing orders. Thus, Ross is likely requesting an award for attorney fees pursuant to this code section.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

How Valentine's Day Can Affect Your Divorce

February 11, 2013

San_Diego_Waterfront.jpgValentine's Day is a romantic time in Del Mar and throughout San Diego County. The romance of this holiday can sometimes stir up old feelings between divorcing spouses. It is not uncommon for spouses going through a Del Mar divorce to send each other gifts on Valentine's Day or even to spend the day together. However, it is important to consider the legal ramifications of these acts especially with regard to the date of separation. On the other hand, newly separated spouses may be spending Valentine's Day with a new significant other for the first time in a while. Before substantial gifts are given to a new love interest or money is spent on a lavish trip, it is important to also consider how these acts may impact your divorce proceeding in Del Mar.

The date of separation is an important consideration in many divorces. The marital estate is the property divided upon divorce. Property can only be accumulated in the martial estate between the date of marriage and the date of separation. Thus, once spouses decide to end their marriage, they stop accumulating any community assets. In order for a separation to occur, the spouses must physically separate (live apart) with the simultaneous intent never to resume the marital relationship. As Del Mar divorce attorneys understand, only one spouse is necessary to establish the requisite intent to end the marriage.

Read more about date of separation from Del Mar divorce lawyer Nancy Bickford

Depending on the assets in the martial estate, a dispute regarding date of separation can have enormous financial consequences. In order to determine which spouse is correct regarding the date of separation, the court will consider the conduct of the parties. One of the factors considered by the court is whether the spouses gave each other gifts or spent holidays together. If Husband and his attorney allege the parties separated January 1, 2010, the same year he earned a $100,000 bonus at work, that bonus would be his separate property. However, if Wife can show that Husband sent her flowers and a romantic card on Valentine's Day in 2011, her divorce lawyer can use this as evidence that they in fact separated much later and she will be entitled to half of Husband's 2010 bonus.

Under the Family Code, which governs the divorce process in Del Mar, spouses are not permitted to gift community property without the written consent of the other spouse. While both spouses are entitled to manage and control community funds, gifting community property is not considered a function of a spouses right to "manage and control" community funds. If a separated spouse intends to purchase any lavish gifts for a new significant other, he or she should be careful only to use separate property funds for this purchase.

In Del Mar, the divorce process can be complex, and selecting a qualified and knowledgeable divorce attorney is exceptionally important. Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 for more information about the consultation process.

The voice of Charlie Brown charged with stalking, death threats

Peter Robbins, voice of the beloved Peanuts character Charlie Brown, was arrested on Sunday, January 20th, on charges of making criminal threats and stalking. Robbins was the voice of Charlie Brown in both "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "It's a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" television specials.

ABCNews.com reported that, while the details of the arrest warrant were not immediately available, the charges related to Robbins stalking his ex-girlfriend and making criminal threats against a plastic surgeon.

nbcsandiego.com reported that it all started with a breast enhancement performed on Robbins' former girlfriend, Shawna Kern, by La Jolla plastic surgeon Lori Saltz. Apparently Robbins and Kern were a couple at the time the procedure was performed, but broke up sometime thereafter. After the couple split, Robbins allegedly demanded his money back from Saltz, stalking her and threatening her life if she did not refund the money.

Read more about domestic violence and how an attorney can help

Robbins, a resident of Oceanside, California was arrested while re-entering the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. According to ABC News, he is being held on $550,000 bail, and a preliminary hearing is set for March 22, 2013. ABCNews.com further reports that, if convicted, Robbins faces up to 9 years in prison.

According to nbcsandiego.com, Saltz filed a restraining order against Robbins. It is unknown whether Kern has similarly filed a restraining order against Robbins.

We have previously blogged about how the "girlfriend, boyfriend" relationship qualifies a restraining order to be filed in Family Court. We have also previously blogged about the basics of family law restraining orders. A unique fact of this story is the mention of violence by Robbins against the dog he shared with Kern. nbcsandiego.com reports: "[t]he prosecutor said Robbins also admitted to attacking Kern and their dog."

In cases such as these, Family Code section 6320 authorizes the Court to include a pet on a restraining order in California. The California family code section provides protections for the party, and at the discretion of the court, the code also provides protections to other family members, household members, and even pets on the authority of good cause.

Do pets really need this type of protection? It would appear they do. While California did not initially extend this type of protection to pets, the extension accounts for the fact that over 60% of American households have pets and a majority of women who are in shelters report that their batterer also abused the pets in the household.

This is according to Jennifer Scarlett, DVM and co-president of the San Francisco SPCA as reported by sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com. In fact, according to Scarlett, 25% to 40% of women say that they stay in abusive relationships because they are afraid to leave their pet in the household. California is not the only state to extend this protection to pets. Twenty-two states plus the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico have similar legislation.

Don't settle for less when determining your rights. The divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford, APC are well versed in Family Law in San Diego, with the firm headed by Nancy J. Bickford, Esq.. Ms. Bickford is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS), as well as an actively licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA), making her the only attorney representing clients in divorce in San Diego with these distinctions. Call today for more information about the consultation process. (858) 793-8884


New Divorce Method - Divorce Hotel

January 28, 2013

There many paths to ending a marriage in San Diego - including settlement, trial, uncontested divorce and simplified divorce. Many couples struggle for months and even years to work out the complex issues involved in divorce such as property division, support, and custody and visitation. Dutch entrepreneur, Jim Halfens, created a new method of divorce used in the Netherlands called the "Divorce Hotel". Using this method, a couple checks into the Divorce Hotel on a Friday, and with the help of family law attorneys and mediators, checks out on Sunday with divorce papers in hand. Instead of the typical hourly rate, the couple pays a flat fee for their stay in the Divorce Hotel. San_Diego_Divorce_Hotel.jpg

After experiencing great success in the Netherlands, Halfens is attempting to bring his novel concept to the United States, which is known for its extraordinary divorce rate. Halfens is not only negotiating with hotels and local family law attorneys, but also with television production companies. Halfens is attempting to start a new reality show which follows the couples through their stay at the Divorce Hotel. Many prominent divorce lawyers have expressed serious doubts about the practicality of Halfens' concept. These attorneys are concerned that most divorces are too complex and/or acrimonious to be completed in a single weekend. U.S. divorce attorneys do agree that the concept may be successful in cases where the divorcing couple remains on friendly terms and has a relatively straightforward marital estate to divide.

Read more about uncontested divorce here

Many obstacles can prevent the Divorce Hotel method from succeeding. A divorce proceeding can be dragged out because spouses often hide money, undervalue assets, and perpetrate fraud. Discovering these inconsistencies and seeking out the truth regarding the marital estate takes time, money, and a lot of effort by experienced family law attorneys. This work can skyrocket the cost of a divorce by increasing costs, fees, and may even require hiring an expensive expert. In order to combat this reality, Halfens screens the couples that apply to stay at the Divorce Hotel. His team tries to weed out its applicants and only admit those who are willing to mediate and work together to reach a solution. Couples who bicker or barely speak to each other are rejected.

Divorce can be quite complicated, especially in San Diego. Contact us today if you are contemplating a separation, curious about the divorce process, or simply want to schedule a consultation at our office located in Carmel Valley, near Del Mar. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego who represents clients experiencing divorce, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 from all areas of San Diego county, including Encinitas, Escondido, Vista, and beyond.

Tiger Woods Reconciling with Elin Nordegren?

January 22, 2013

If you have as much money as Tiger Woods, maybe it can buy you love. After a massive cheating scandal broke in late 2009, Elin Nordegren filed for divorce from her successful golf star husband, Tiger Woods. In a record-breaking settlement, Nordegren walked away from her marriage with $750 million. In return for her cash pay-out, Nordegren agreed to never publicly speak out about Woods' affairs with over twenty different women. Despite their incredibly public divorce, just over two years after the couple reached a global settlement, Woods' again proposed marriage to Nordegren.


Apparently Woods is not satisfied with his not-so-new found single lifestyle. His friends say he is incredibly unhappy without his family and has not managed to hold a steady girlfriend since Nordegren. Although Woods has dated several other models since his divorce, he hasn't recovered from his split with Nordegren. On or around Christmas 2012, Woods got down on one knee, presented her with a ring, and "re-proposed" to his former wife. Nordegren is considering Woods' proposal, but only on the condition that he agree to include a $350 million anti-cheating clause in their prenuptial agreement. Reportedly, Woods has no problem agreeing to Nordegren's condition despite the fact that his accountants think he is crazy. Woods is ready to sign on the dotted line, set a wedding date, and return back to his former married life.

Read more about San Diego divorce attorneys

California is a "no fault" state. This means that in a San Diego divorce proceeding infidelity is irrelevant when dividing assets and debts, setting spousal and/or child support, and determining custody and visitation rights of the parties. Despite this default rule, parties have the ability to agree to abide by different rules. As in the Woods-Nordegren reconciliation, parties can agree to put an "anti-cheating" provision in a premarital agreement. Under such a provision, a spouse would be punished if he or she was unfaithful during marriage. If no such provision existed, neither party could be punished by the courts for infidelity. There are strict rules that a divorce attorney must follow when drafting any agreement, especially a premarital agreement, in order to have it enforceable by the courts. It is important to contact an experienced family law attorney to draft any contracts between spouses.

If you are considering divorce in San Diego, a legal separation from your spouse, or have questions regarding scheduling a consultation, contact us here. Nancy J. Bickford is the only divorce lawyer in San Diego representing clients who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS), and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call us today 858-793-8884 for more information about our divorce attorneys in San Diego.

Hollywood Divorce Spotlight - Skinnygirl Frankel's Child Custody and Support Requests

As we have previously blogged, Bethenny Frankel, former star of The Real Housewives of New York, and founder of Skinnygirl Cocktails, recently filed for divorce from husband, Jason Hoppy. The parties have a daughter, age 2.

Reportedly, the parties' separated on December 23, 2012 and Frankel filed for divorce just shortly thereafter (LA Times) It appears from Frankel's Petition that she is requesting primary physical custody of the parties' daughter and child support payable by Hoppy, in addition to life insurance, exclusive occupancy of their home and medical, dental, vision and orthodontic care for her and the child. Sources estimate Frankel is worth at least $25 million. This begs the question: Is child support appropriate in cases where the custodial parent is an extraordinarily higher earner?

Under Family Code section 4053, "[I]n implementing the statewide uniform child support guideline, the courts shall adhere to the following principles:

(a) A parent's first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent's circumstances and station in life.
(b) Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.
(c) The guideline takes into account each parent's actual income and level of responsibility for the children.

As such, regardless of Frankel's ability to support the parties' daughter, the court is tasked with ensuring Hoppy shares in that responsibility as well, pursuant to the statewide child support guideline. The guideline must account for both parents' actual income. In this case, CelebrityNetWorth.com reports that Hoppy has a net worth of $5 million himself, the majority of which he made as a high end New York real estate agent. His income must be considered in determining whether a support order is appropriate in this case.

Find more resources for divorce in San Diego

The statewide child support guideline is presumptively correct. If, under the statewide child support guideline, Hoppy is obligated to contribute to the support of Bryn, might he be able to somehow "rebut" the presumption? Could Hoppy perhaps show the court that he too has an extraordinarily high income such that presumed support would exceed the needs of the child, and in doing so successfully rebut the presumption?

Family Code section 4057 provides: "(b) [t]he [presumed child support award i.e. the guideline amount] may be rebutted by admissible evidence showing that...(3) The parent being ordered to pay child support has an extraordinarily high income and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the child." To date, no case has defined "extraordinarily high income" for purposes of this section. Rather, it appears to be left to the discretion of the judge to determine what level of income may qualify. A judge may consider the local economic conditions in his or her analysis. But, because under Family Code section 4053 as mentioned above, "children should share in the standard of living of both parents" (Fam. C. section 4053(f)), consider that the needs of a child are relative to the parents' income, even if that income is extraordinarily high.

It should be noted that before a judge can deviate from guideline child support, he or she must first calculate the guideline amount based, generally, on both parents' incomes and their respective time share with the child. Only after that is done can a court go on to make the necessary findings as to why a different amount should be ordered. (Fam. C. section 4056(a)).

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 today.

January is Peak Season for Divorces

January 14, 2013

January is commonly referred to as a "peak season" for divorces in Del Mar and throughout San Diego County. Although many parties file for divorce in January, their timing may be chosen for a variety of different reasons. Filing for divorce during the holiday season can cause tension within the family and significant hardship if children are involved. In an effort to avoid ruining the holidays for the children or the family, some parties put off filing until January.


On the other hand, the holiday season can be a very stressful time for families causing the final straw in a marriage to break thus prompting a party to file for divorce. Making a decision to file for divorce is best done with a clear head. The holidays can be a time of chaos and tension and therefore may parties decide to "ride out" the holiday season and then re-evaluate whether they still wish to pursue divorce. In addition to the emotional and psychological reasons for filing for divorce in January, many practical explanations also exist.

As we have previously blogged, the date of separation can have a dramatic impact on the division of property. The timing of filing a divorce petition can be used as the date of separation for the parties depending on the particular facts of the case. If one spouse generally earns a significant year-end bonus or commission, it may be wise to delay filing a petition until after the first of the next year. Once spouses separate, all of their respective earnings and accumulations will remain their separate property. This is quite different than the default rule which states that all earnings and accumulations during marriage are considered community property and divided evenly. Although it is impossible to say how a year-end bonus will certainly be divided at the end of the dissolution process, waiting until after the payment is received to file for divorce may save significant litigation on the issue.

Read more about divorce and finance

The end of the calendar year generates a plethora of year-end financial statements. Depending on the finances in each case, the parties can receive year-end paystubs, W-2 statements, student loan statements, statements from any investment accounts, statements from any retirement accounts, etc. Gathering all of this updated financial information can help the divorce process move smoothly. Parties have the opportunity to gather bank statements, tax records, draw up budgets, request mortgage statements and credit card balances before filing. These statements will be utilized to prepare Income and Expense Declarations and Schedules of Assets and Debts. Separating at the beginning of a calendar year can represent a new beginning and clean break for the parties.

Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Please contact us if you are considering legal separation, divorce, or need advice regarding child custody matters.. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Call 858-793-8884 for a consultation appointment today.

Update - Ashton Kutcher Finally Files for Divorce

January 8, 2013

As we have previously blogged, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore separated nearly a year ago. However, neither party had filed for divorce, until now. Early on the parties claimed to be working out all of the details of their marital settlement before involving the court system in their divorce. Despite their year-long attempt at an amicable resolution, Kutcher filed for divorce shortly before Christmas. Media outlets speculate that Kutcher's new girlfriend, Mila Kunis, may have pressured him to file. This is based on the theory that Kutcher intended to give Moore time to heal from the couple's traumatic split and that Kunis could no longer handle letting Moore still have that much control. Besides the emotional implications involved, there are a few legal ramifications of filing for divorce that might have appealed to Kutcher and prompted him to finally take this step.

In California there is a mandatory six-month waiting period between when a spouse files for divorce and when the court has the ability to terminate his or her marital status. This means that if Kutcher intends to re-marry within the next year or so, filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage six months prior to that date would be necessary. Even if Kutcher and Moore agreed upon a final settlement of their estate and submitted their agreement to the court, they would still remain legally married until the six month waiting period had passed.

Learn more about filing for divorce in San Diego

Filing for divorce also has many financial implications. The timing of Kutcher's petition, shortly before Christmas, may not have been an attempt to hurt Moore around the holidays but instead, may have been done in the interest of financial security. Legally married couples can file "married filing separately". If Kutcher files "married filing separately" he will only report his own income, exemptions, deductions, and credits. Normally, there are significant disadvantages to filing "married filing separately", however it may be prudent to file separately if you are concerned about the potential liability for tax, penalties, and interest of your spouse.

Legally married couples can also file "married filing jointly". In this case, both spouses file one return together and report both of their income, exemptions, deductions and credits. This may be difficult in divorce proceedings where a party is non-cooperative. It is crucial to speak with a tax preparer in making this decision. By filing his divorce petition in December, Kutcher gave himself the option to use whatever method of filing works most to his advantage.

If you are contemplating divorce, please contact us. The Law Offices of Nancy J Bickford are also well versed in child custody, spousal support or alimony in San Diego, and property division. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.